- Novartis set out to improve its struggling eye care division Alcon at the beginning of 2016, and made another step toward that goal on Tuesday, announcing its acquisition of Encore Vision.
- The Swiss biopharma did not disclose in a Dec. 20 statement how much it is paying to snag the Fort Worth, TX-based target. Encore Vision was previously owned by Roanoke, VA-based Encore Health.
- The deal gives Novartis access to Encore's treatment for presbyopia, EV06. Presbyopia is a stiffening of the eye's lens that, over time, makes it difficult for people to see and focus on close-up objects. According to the World Health Organization, up to 517 million people worldwide have impaired near-sighted vision.
Improving Alcon was one of five overarching goals Novartis set out to achieve this year, and there have been some successes to that end. The company saw two medical devices for eye surgeries gain FDA approval and launched new contact lenses and a vitreoretinal imaging system. Taking over Encore adds a pharmaceutical boost as well.
But problems with unit have persisted. Sales have stagnated and a deal with Google to make autofocus contact lenses, which was slated to start this year, has run into delays.
Alcon revenues totaled $1.4 billion in the third quarter, a 2% decline from the same period in 2015. Still, that's a big rebound from less than a year ago, when fourth quarter revenues for 2015 were 13% below what they were in 2014.
Company representatives have said recently a sale of Alcon is not off the table, although the Encore acquisition suggests Novartis may still have faith in renewed growth from the unit.
"Novartis confirms its leadership in ophthalmology by entering another new therapy area," the company's Chief Medical Officer Vasant Narasimhan said in the statement. "The addition of this topical disease modifying treatment to our portfolio, if successful, will provide affected people with a new option to improve and maintain their vision and quality of life."